Submillimeter-wavelength Polarimetry of IRC+10216

Andersson, B-G, Karoly, Janik orcid iconORCID: 0000-0001-5996-3600, Bastien, Pierre, Soam, Archana, Coudé, Simon, Tahani, Mehmoosh, Gordon, Michael S. and Fox-Middleton, Sydney (2024) Submillimeter-wavelength Polarimetry of IRC+10216. Astrophysical Journal, 963 (1). ISSN 0004-637X

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We present SCUBA-2/POL-2 850 μm polarimetric observations of the circumstellar envelope (CSE) of the carbon-rich asymptotic giant branch (AGB) star IRC+10216. Both FIR and optical polarization data indicate grains aligned with their long axis in the radial direction relative to the central star. The 850 μm polarization does not show this simple structure. The 850 μm data are indicative, albeit not conclusive, of a magnetic dipole geometry. Assuming such a simple dipole geometry, the resulting 850 μm polarization geometry is consistent with both Zeeman observations and small-scale structure in the CSE. While there is significant spectral line polarization contained within the SCUBA-2 850 μm pass-band for the source, it is unlikely that our broadband polarization results are dominated by line polarization. To explain the required grain alignment, grain mineralogy effects, due to either fossil silicate grains from the earlier oxygen-rich AGB phase of the star, or due to the incorporation of ferromagnetic inclusions in the largest grains, may play a role. We argue that the most likely explanation is due to a new alignment mechanism \citep{arXiv:2009.11304} wherein a charged grain, moving relative to the magnetic field, precesses around the induced electric field and therefore aligns with the magnetic field. This mechanism is particularly attractive as the optical, FIR, and sub-mm wave polarization of the carbon dust can then be explained in a consistent way, differing simply due to the charge state of the grains.

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